Sunday, October 10, 2010
I have gathered a bouquet of other men's flowers and nothing but the thread that binds them is my own. -Montaigne
What I have gathered from Charlotte Mason and others regarding the art of nature journals is bound together by the thread of our home education. Though an unruly bouquet, I am spurred on by your comments and questions and will do my best to stuff it into a few little thought clouds. Hold on, I'm afraid it's going to get a bit technical. Just a bit.
Rosemary asked: Is brush drawing for a later age or do they start now?
From the garden of experts: In a "Parents' Review" article, Mrs. Steinthall speaks of training in brush-drawing beginning at six-years-old as a general rule (Volume 8, no. 7, 1897, pg. 414). Miss Mason tells us that a child of five or six should begin freely illustrating their nature journals with brush-drawings (Vol. I, p. 55).
It's important to remember that Charlotte stressed that the goal of the nature journal is to enhance the child's powers of observation and their appreciation of nature and is not meant as a vehicle for formal drawing instruction. The object is more important than the rendering of that object.
Instruction in drawing had its time and place. We see drawing and brush-drawing in Charlotte's timetables in Form I (Grades 1-3). Though they don't appear in the timetables for the older grades, it is my understanding that these lessons took place in the afternoon for a fee. Charlotte wanted students drawing "from the round" meaning from the object itself rather than a linear representation of the object, and she felt that brush-drawing was better suited for this work.
New England Aster from Max's Nature Journal on October 6, 2010
Heather wanted to know: Do your boys typically sketch with pencil and then add the color with the watercolor or are they usually using the paint only?
My boys do primarily use brush-drawing with watercolors in their nature journals. I say primarily because if they happen to bring out their pencils or an ink pen I don't look cross-eyed at them. Just as Charlotte promised, they find their way around color and form on their own.
We incorporated brush-drawing with ink into our lesson plan last year and brush-painting with watercolors this year. These "lessons" in the younger grades don't require mother to have had formal training and, as Renelle said, it's fun to learn alongside your children. Begin with instilling a reverence for the paints, paper, and brushes - meaning their proper care, handling and cleaning. Then simply set an object (ie lemon, apple, wooden box, branch) on a shelf or table a number of feet away -- so no one is distracted by detail -- and draw the object using a brush and watercolor. Again, that's during brush-drawing time. When they are putting an entry into their nature journal they can get super close, sometimes using a magnifying glass.
I take it the pans in the Winsor watercolors can be replaced or do you purchase the whole set when you run out of paint?
Aside from the company you have mentioned, how do you determine good paint from cheap paint other than price? Or is anything say over $20 a good paint?
Again, I gather from other gardens. If I get to visit an art store in person I ask a lot of questions. This is how I learned that Chinese brushes -- which are always made from natural hair -- are a much more economical alternative to expensive sable brushes. The best reviews I've found on the web take place in the form of discussions on The Sketching Forum and even offers pictures and how-to 's for making your own watercolor field boxes. Those pans in our field boxes can be replaced with individual color choice.
A bit more about what we do here will have to wait for another thought cloud to pass by. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your own gatherings and the thread that binds them together!
ps Nancy at Sage Parnassus recently shared a link to the CM Digital Collection. There you can download two entire House of Education Student Nature Notebooks for your viewing pleasure. I've had a look and what I liked best is that they reflect the individuality of each student.